Meet the Ripon leather workers following St Wilfrid’s path
Last updated Apr 12, 2024
Andy Bates and Bridie Rimmer

Stiches that bridge time between ancient and modern craftsmanship are linking the skills of two outstanding leatherworkers in the Ripon area.

The handmade heritage stretches back to the foundation by Wilfrid of the city’s cathedral in 672 AD

Master craftsman Andy Bates, a mentor on the BBC’s Make It At Market BAFTA Award-nominated series, has been sharing his in-depth knowledge with Bridie Rimmer, whose bespoke handmade Luxe Rebel Leather Co, brand of leather jackets and fashion wear is proving popular with glam rock and and country music stars.

The like-minded leatherworkers who produce goods of the highest quality for different types of clientele, first met at a leathercraft workshop run by Andy at Ripon Workhouse Museum last year.

A selection of Luxe Rebel Leather Co garments, all made by Bridie Rimmer

Andy said:

“It was a serendipitous meeting, because we were able to discuss how the skills and techniques of leathercraft, which go back centuries, still apply to this day and Bridie is using them to create specialist high-end bespoke goods that have great visual appeal, while my customers commission me to produce one-off items ranging from belts to boots and items that are used in theatrical productions.”

One of Andy Bates’ dramatic pieces of leatherwork. 

Bridie’s clients include Canadian Jo-Jo O’Donoghue, lead singer with the fast-rising glam rock band Jo-Jo and the Teeth and her stunning designs are also worn by other artists including country musician Kezia Gill.

She has also caught the attention of the organisers of an industry award, where  Rebel Luxe Leather Co has been shortlisted for a sustainability award for her environmentally-aware operation, which sees waste is minimised through use of offcuts to make other small leather goods. Some left over leather is also donated to local schools.

Speaking about how she developed her latent talent, Bridie said:

“I taught myself how to make a jacket from an existing one and after many frustrating attempts, it worked!  I then developed the patterns to change them into a unique rebellious stylish piece.

“I am completely self-taught in leather and when I wanted to expand and explore more into the leather world, Luxe Rebel Leather Co. was born; with creativity and chic style at its core.”

Jo-Jo O’Donoghue, lead singer of Jo-Jo and the Teeth in a jacket made by Bridie Rimmer. Picture: Kamila Jarczak

She added:

“I am passionate about finding my customers’ unique styles and igniting their confidence by working closely together to develop a piece that personally speaks to them, in a way that nothing else in the current fast-fashion industry could.”

In the footsteps of Saint Wilfrid

Andy, who is a keen archaeologist, historian and member of the Heritage Crafts organisation, pointed out:

“We can trace back the leather-sandaled  footsteps of Ripon’s Patron Saint Wilfrid, and find his link to leatherworking both here and in Hexham.

“‘More than 1,300 years later, working alongside Bridie and others willing to share their know-how and craftworking tips, I am planning to run more workshops.

“This is in the hope that they will become the catalyst that helps craftsmen and women to join forces and put Ripon back on the map as a centre of excellence for the production of hand-crafted leather goods.”

Main image: Andy Bates and Bridie Rimmer, pictured with examples of their work at Bridie’s Melmerby studio.

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